Like most people I know, I have struggled my entire life with my body image. I almost wrote – I struggled my entire life with my weight – but that is an untruth. The truth is, that I have correlated my value and worthiness with the size of my body. Deep down, I have a belief that being smaller is the greatest achievement I can attain in my life.
How I hate to admit that about myself, to myself and you. I am an intelligent woman with a no nonsense approach to life. I most certainly have overcome bigger obstacles in my life than losing weight. Yet, this nonsense belief, which started in childhood, has clung to me and refuses to set me free.
Diet culture hasn’t changed, it’s gotten worse.
Growing up in the eighties and nineties, it was perfectly acceptable for anyone at all to make comments about other peoples bodies. Family members were particularly skilled at making comments which made me feel so much shame that it led to disordered eating. Praising or degrading another person for their body size is a violation of that person, and it is extremely damaging.
While it’s not acceptable to discuss or comment on another persons appearance these days, judgement still prevails and the diet and fitness industry has more of a hold on us now than it ever has. Instead of a disgruntled relative supporting fatphobia, we now have social media to contend with twenty-four-seven, bombarding us with images of what they tells us we should look like.
This time of year in particular, the “New Year New Me” brigade come out in force to tell us exactly what we need to change about our bodies and play on every insecurity imaginable. It makes us feel like, because the calendar changed, we must overhaul everything about ourselves.
The you that you are is just fine!
Well I ain’t playing no more. You don’t have to either. Diet culture has controlled and manipulated me for far too long. I am adopting a new mindset to override decades old conditioning and start taking care of myself properly. Initially I felt anxious having made the decision to remove myself from this toxic lifestyle. Diet culture is expert at making us think that the more we obsess about food and exercise the better our lives will be. In fact it makes us feel ashamed if we are not obsessing and monitoring every calorie consumed and burned.
Health is important. God knows I have had numerous issues from childhood. However, obsessing and stressing over the size of my body has nothing to do with my health and everything to do with big corporations creating and using my insecurities for profit. Obsessive thinking about anything is the very opposite of being healthy!
A new perspective
It’s hard to trust your own body and its wisdom when you have been forced to think there is something wrong with you your entire life. I’ve been on several different diets in my lifetime and I have mostly felt horrible while eating the required food. My body knows what it likes and what reactions it has to different foods. Every body has an inbuilt wisdom. We just need to listen.
You don’t have to compare what you eat with what anyone else eats. You don’t have to feel shame about eating food and you certainly don’t have to eat less or differently because someone else says you should. Often when people talk about being healthy, they actually mean being thinner. Healthy and thinner don’t always correspond.
Feeling out of control around food is not something that you created. People feel this way because we have been told that there are good and bad foods. Because of this we are constantly in a state of guilt and shame surrounding food choices. Once you remove those labels you release the negative feelings and stop obsessing.
Food should be about nourishing ourselves from head to toe. For me allowing myself to nourish my body starts first with changing my mindset. There are so many other things to do with our minds and bodies than obsessing about its size.
Remember, food and the size of your body does not equate to moral value. You are a whole human being with endless potential. You have a right to take up space on this planet and you are worthy and valuable exactly as you are.
We heal through self-compassion, not self-criticism. You deserve better!
Incredibly article; thank you!
That is so true Nicola. Everything starts with self-love.
Thank you for your great article.